Posted in Cuisine, HomePage, Uncategorized

Mac & Cheeze, Please!

I have been in the midst of writing a post on a completely different subject, but placed that particular one on hold to give an impression on a pretty important topic. This cannot wait; it must be done immediately! What possibly could be so important, you ask? The subject: Macaroni and Cheese, or rather, Mac & Cheeze.

Prior to dedicating my entire self to Veganism, I, like a good majority of humans, was a cheese addict. I believe I have mentioned in (much) older posts my complete adoration for the creamy delicacy coagulated cow puss. I literally would crave cheese; and desired it in any form; however my very favorite was between two pieces of greasy toasted bread or covering noodles, pasta and macaroni of any kind.

The Mr. and I are about 98% Whole Food, Plant-Based vegans, however occasionally we will splurge on some “vegan junk food”,  or rather “mock” items; one being ‘cheese’. Periodically, although not as often as I once imagined, I get a craving for some of the comfort foods I used to enjoy in the past, the top one being mac and cheese.

The Mr. and I were doing our grocery shopping and in the frozen food section looking for something in particular when I stumbled upon the Heat & Eat section. I typically don’t even bother glancing around those parts since most, if not all, are highly processed, filler-substance, as opposed to real food (even at Whole Foods). But the pic on the box caught my eye:

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Amy’s makes some pretty darn tasty (real) cheese and veggie enchiladas, and I appreciate that they focus on healthy convenience, so I grabbed two boxes and tossed them in my cart. ($3.99 at 365 by Whole Foods)

I have to admit I was a bit trepidatious to try this. One, because I always hold frozen mac and cheese meals to Stouffers standards (was my absolute favorite); it is made with rice pasta, which I have had in the past and find it to be a bit too soft for my taste; and finally, Amy’s uses Daiya for the cheese sauce. The only experience I have with Daiya is having their mozarella shreds on a pizza from Pie Five, and again at home one night; neither time were The Mr. and I a fan. It melts well, but has a strange sweet/tart taste… Anyhoo. The Mr. took his box to have for lunch at work today, and I had mine at home.

I opted to make it in the microwave, although would have rather baked in the oven, but wanted to compare the end result exactly with the way The Mr. would have his, and also, honestly did not want to wait 40 mins to dig in… so, in the microwave it went. After following the instructions stated on the box, I became quite hopeful this could be a treat and wouldn’t have to opt for a back-up lunch option. It smelled exactly like real macaroni and cheese, and resembled it as well! I added a tiny bit of salt and took my first bite… I was SO pleasantly surprised! And then excited! And then satisfied! And then excited again! It was delicious!!! It absolutely could be put up against a non-vegan frozen entree in comparison and be preferred (except Stouffers… nothing can touch that stuff; nothing)!

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The pasta was not overly soft, the cheeze was creamy and had a sharp cheddar-like taste. Could this really be? My only two less-than-perfect comments are that it needed a bit more salt than I would prefer, and after cooling for a few minutes became a bit tacky or sticky; not a huge deal, because I didn’t allow it to sit thaaaat long… I scarfed it down too quickly.

Overall I was very pleased and now have an option for a quick-grab lunch if need be, and therefore give it 4 out of 5 bellyubs!

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I will be very anxious to get The Mr.’s opinion when he gets home from work later this evening. Now, back to my other post… coming soon… sit tight 😉

Posted in Cuisine, Lifestyle

Initial Impression: Power Air Fryer XL Pro

I am not overly fond of fried foods. Too much grease nauseates me; however, the fried foods I do like, I like a whole lot… fried chicken, doughnuts, cheese curds, french fries… mmmm nom nom. I have a gazillion kitchen toys (utensils, gadgets and appliances) and am always anxious to try out the next latest and greatest invention. When I get a lazy Saturday morning, which RARELY happens, I enjoy sitting in front of the TV with my mondo-sized-mug-o-coffee and watching Food Network with The Mr. and kids; or when flipping the channels getting captivated by either ‘In the Kitchen with ______’ on QVC or sucked in with one of those uberly-excited, over-dramatic, you’re-going-to-keel-over-if-you-don’t-act-now infomercials. And sometimes, I (we) fall for it.

I learned about Air Frying a year or so ago, and have had a Philips Airfryer in my Amazon cart for about that long. I just never felt the need to spend $300 on a toy I may use every now and then, because again, fried foods make me wanna hurl. But then – I saw the informercial for the Power Air Fryer XL Pro. The demo impressed me. The price was a helluva lot less than the Philips and it had a decent try-it guarantee, so as I do with ALL (literally ALL) things I spend money on, I did research! (Google is my inquiry BFF) It seemed to get some very promising reviews AND, long story short, QVC offered it with special accessories and on 5 Easy Pay ($23.80 got it to my door), so why not? I ordered the 3.4 Qt. in Black.

I was excited to receive my new play thing, and had been dreaming of all the fantastic goodies I could whip up prior to it’s arrival, as it claims to not only ‘fry’ things, but bake, sauté, roast, steam and grill – Whooppee!

First things first… what do you imagine the very first thing is to try in the brand new air fryer? Something I have not really had since starting Weight Watchers – Hand-Cut French Fries! Oh yes, tasty little starchy morsels of goodness, that’s what!

I began with a medium-sized, Texas-grown russet tater. (I failed to take a picture of said tater, but figure you know what I’m talkin’ bout, right?)

I scrubbed it with a potato brush and left the skin-on. Skin-on fries are the tastiest and my favorite!

I then cut it into sticks.

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To remove the access starch, soak in a cold water bath for 15-20 mins.

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Drain off the water and give another rinse with cold water; dry completely! I wrapped in cheesecloth and pressed. I let the bowl sit on the counter for a bit and continued to press to absorb as much moisture as possible.

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Remove the cheesecloth and drizzle with VERY LITTLE oil (olive or vegetable), maybe a 1/2 tsp; sprinkle with salt and toss/mix to coat each potato stick. Cooking with air requires little to no oil. I added oil to help aid in the crispiness of the fry. Place in the fry basket.

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The Power Air Fryer has several presetting options, one being for Fries. Once locking the basket into place, and hitting the Fries button, they begin to cook immediately at 400° for 18 minutes. The user manual instructs you to pull out the basket and toss half way through the cooking process, so at 9 minutes, I did as I was told and then placed back into the paused machine.

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At the end of the 18 minutes, I pulled out the basket and gave them another toss to ensure they all looked done. They probably could’ve gone for an additional minute or two, as the centers were less crispy than I would personally prefer.

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The French fries turned out delicious! I’d say they were a cross between those cooked in an oil fryer and those baked in an oven, with zero greasy or oily residue/taste. Essentially the concept of ‘frying’ with air is nothing more than cooking in a convection oven. The hot, pressured air circulates the food being cooked, sealing in moisture while making the outside crispy. However, the time and energy saved using the countertop appliance vs. my wall oven, especially in the summer, is outstanding!! After my first go, I am extremely excited to try out a plethora of other things!

So, on my scale of 1-5 Bellyrubs, after the initial use, I give the Power Air Fryer XL Pro:

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4 Paws-Up!